3 men receive prison sentences in college basketball recruiting scandal

Merl Code, James Gatto and Christian Dawkins

Enlarge Image Merl Code, James Gatto and Christian Dawkins Erik Thomas

A former Adidas executive was sentenced to nine months in prison Tuesday, while another Adidas official and an aspiring NBA agent each received six-month sentences for their parts in a pay-for-play scandal that rocked college basketball and offered a window into the black-market battles between rival shoe companies to steer top teenage players to their flagship sponsored universities.

Two other parties, business manager and would-be agent Christian Dawkins and former college player turned coach Merl Code, received six-month sentences.

In October, a jury found Gatto guilty on all three of his counts and Dawkins and Code guilty to each of their pairs after the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of NY successfully proved its case that the three men conspired to defraud the University of Louisville and the University of Kansas.

Code, 45, said he "deeply" regretted what brought him to court but noted he believes, "things need to be changed about college basketball".

NCAA President Mark Emmert has said an independent enforcement body to adjudicate major infractions cases could be in place by August. The accused parties were said to have offered money to the parents of players so that they could go to the aforementioned schools.

In explaining his sentence, Kaplan explained that he felt, regardless of the dispute over the complicated legal theories at play in the case, the men knew what they were doing was wrong, as demonstrated by masking the payments with fake invoices and secret cash handoffs in parking lots and hotel rooms.

Kaplan added, however, that he meant to send a "great big warning light to the basketball world" and to "deter others and make them think twice before engaging in this type of conduct". Defense attorneys representing conceded that their clients each violated NCAA rules by paying families of the following players: Brian Bowen (Louisville), Billy Preston (Kansas) and Dennis Smith Jr.

Business manager Christian Dawkins arrives to court in New York, Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

"I realise now more than ever none of this was worth it, " Dawkins said. Gatto also was convicted of fraud charges for arranging similar deals to steer recruits to Kansas and N.C. State.

The judge said the father cried as he testified that he had wrecked his son's life.

Code and Dawkins are scheduled to stand trial for more felony charges in April. "They were making sure Rick Pitino's tracks were being covered". Pitino was sacked, in part, because of the scandal. He has denied wrongdoing. If their appeals fail, then they'll serve their sentences in a minimum-security federal prison, Kaplan said.

Code and Dawkins are also scheduled to stand trial in April on additional charges of bribery for giving money to assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and Southern California so they might direct National Basketball Association prospects to preferred agents and financial planners.

Their trial was the first of three meant to clean up college basketball, including the trial for ex-NBA star Chuck "The Rifleman" Person and three other former assistant coaches, which is slated to begin in June.

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